Whale shark in Al Bahia Abu Dhabi
The six-metre long whale shark while it was at the Al Bahiyah lagoon in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: A six-metre long whale shark that had lost its way and was stranded in a lagoon in Al Bahiyah has been successfully relocated back to the Arabian Gulf. The operation was carried out by Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the National Aquarium.

The whale shark is the world’s largest fish species. It feeds on plankton and must keep moving. It is also a critically endangered species. According to the classification system by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, critically endangered species face an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

This particular whale shark had lost its way and ended up in a man-made lagoon that had a single two-metre-wide access point. It had then been swimming in circles and had been finding it difficult to feed.

Special operation

Once it was detected, EAD and the National Aquarium team swung into action to transport it 20 kilometres back to the Arabian Gulf. A first-of-its-kind transportation bag was created to capture the shark and move it safely. During the five-hour procedure, divers monitored the waters constantly to ensure the animal’s welfare, whereas Abu Dhabi Marine Club assisted with the towing.

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Following the relocation and release, a tracking device was also installed on the shark to monitor its movements and for a better understanding of its behaviour. So far, the marine mammal has travelled more than 250 kilometres towards a whale shark aggregation in the Arabian Gulf.